Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, October 12, 2007

An Economic Model For "Saving" The Giant Palouse Earthworm

My solution to the Giant Palouse Earthworm dilemma.

Okay, so perhaps the giant Palouse earthworm won’t turn out to be the snail darter that the left had hoped it would be. Earlier this week, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declined a petition from local enviro-tyrants to have the giant Palouse earthworm declared an endangered species. That designation would have precipitated unpredictable, but almost certainly catastrophic economic harm to local farmers, and would have arrested just about any development in the area. In other words, it would have served the same purpose for environmental extremists here and now as the snail darter did in the 1970’s.
For you innocents unfamiliar with the snail darter, it was a small, previously unknown and inconsequential species of perch that was discovered in the Little Tennessee River and exploited by environmentalists who sought to prevent construction of the Tellico Dam. The dam’s construction was held up until the US Congress granted the Tennessee Valley Authority an exemption from the Endangered Species Act in 1980.
The snail darter gained iconic status for the left, much as did the smearing of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Today, when liberals attack a nominee they call it “borking.” The precedent of the snail darter still occupies a similar spot in the left’s heart as it has empowered environmentalists to gain a chokehold on all manner of economic development. By discovering a rare small flower, a rat, or even a fly, the left can force agriculture or construction to come crawling for permission to proceed.
For this reason, when an example of the giant Palouse earthworm, which was previously believed to be extinct, was discovered north of Albion, farmers and developers everywhere in the region had to be quaking as their livelihood was threatened. If the worm was designated as “endangered,” then one could not pull a plow or pour a foundation without first proving that the earthworm’s beauty sleep goes undisturbed.
In one famous case in California, a farmer was ruined when US Fish and Wildlife agents found a chopped up endangered kangaroo rat on his land. It had wandered in front of his tractor as he was harvesting his fields.
The Endangered Species Act has been exploited to halt logging in old growth forests, supposedly to protect the Northwest spotted owl, even though the owl has been observed nesting comfortably in the big red “K” in front of a K-Mart. Environmentalists still haven’t given up on getting the Lower Snake River dams removed to save a species of salmon so common elsewhere that it can be found in the canned food section of your grocery store.
Ah, the prospect of wielding such power was too much for local enviro-tyrants to resist, and so an application for endangered status for the big worm was submitted. And now that it was denied, pending appeal, the enviros have before them an opportunity to prove me wrong. Do they care about the worm? Or do they care about power?
If they actually care about the worm, then here’s what they can do to save it.
Are cows in any peril of becoming extinct? How about chickens, horses, pigs and sheep? Do you expect any of them to show up on the endangered species list anytime soon? The wild turkey was recently very scarce until some bright folks realized that Americans would pay dearly for the privilege of hunting them.
Well, what do they have in common? Answer: They are all economically valuable. If environmentalists really want to save the earthworm, they would find some way to make them valuable. And the most valuable earthworms that I’ve ever seen are called “fish bait.”
If environmentalists could show that the giant Palouse earthworm caught giant fish, then entrepreneurs would create earthworm farms to meet that demand and the worms would quickly become as plentiful as chinchillas.
Every kid knows that you catch the biggest fish with the biggest worms. When I was young, we would harvest 6-inch long night crawlers so that we could put them on our hooks to maximize our chances of putting a meal-sized fish on our plates. Supposedly the giant Palouse earthworm grows to 3 feet in length. Offer those in the bait shop and all summer long every kid with a fishing pole will be lining up to take their chance at landing the biggest fish in the river.

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